SOAS University of London

Centre of African Studies

Hidden Histories #6 – Undocupoets: A Conversation Among Undocumented Poets of America

Various Speakers

Date: 24 May 2022Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 24 May 2022Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Panel Discussion

To visit the SOAS Decolonising Working Group (DWG) page for this event on their website click here.


“Poetry doesn’t feed mouths, doesn’t build homes, doesn’t cure systemic ills” yet there are undocumented in America who choose metaphor and the line to make their way in a country that does not recognize them. These poets write on eros, silence, humor—and, yes, of their experiences of being “illegal.” On May 24, 2022, the Fellows of the Undocupoets will read poems and discuss the role of poetry in this highly politicized sphere; how they arrived at it; and what is omitted in the public imagination of undocumented Americans.

The Undocupoets is an organization whose mission is to promote the work of poets undocumented in the U.S., and raise consciousness about the structural barriers that they face in the literary community. In 2015, Undocupoets successfully worked with ten renowned first-book poetry contests to update their submission guidelines, all of which required some form of immigration status, to reflect more inclusive publishing. As of 2017, the Undocupoets offer competitive annual grants of $500 to two poets, with no strings attached.

About the speakers

Janine Joseph is a poet and librettist from the Philippines. She is the author of Driving Without a License (2016), winner of the Kundiman Poetry Prize, and Decade of the Brain (2023), both from Alice James Books. Her commissioned works for the Houston Grand Opera/HGOco and Washington Master Chorale include The Art of Our Healers, What Wings They Were, “On This Muddy Water”: Voices from the Houston Ship Channel, and From My Mother’s Mother. A co-organizer for Undocupoets and MacDowell Fellow, she is an assistant professor of creative writing at Oklahoma State University.

Tobi Kassim was born in Ibadan, Nigeria and has lived in The United States since 2003. His work has been supported by a Stadler Center Undergraduate fellowship, and an Undocupoets fellowship. He won Yale University’s Sean T. Lannan poetry prize. His poems have been published in The Volta,The Brooklyn Review, The Hampden Sydney Poetry Review, Zocalo Public Square, and elsewhere.

Anni Liu was born in Xī’ān in the year of the goat. She is the author of Border Vista, which won the 2021 Lexi Rudnitsky Prize from Persea Books, and her work is featured in Poetry Magazine, Ploughshares, Ecotone, Two Lines, and elsewhere. She received an inaugural Undocupoets Fellowship and was recently named a Djanikian Scholar by the Adroit Journal. She is currently working on a hybrid memoir about parole, translating the poetry of Dù Yá (度涯), and editing fiction and nonfiction at Graywolf Press.

Aline Mello is a Brazilian poet and editor. Her work often centers around themes of identity, religion, the body, and the experience of the self living in diaspora. Her immigrant and undocumented identity have influenced her writing and her art. She is an Undocupoet fellow and an MFA candidate at The Ohio State University. Her debut poetry collection MORE SALT THAN DIAMOND is out now.

Oswaldo Vargas is a former farmworker, a graduate from the University of California, Davis and a 2021 Undocupoets Fellow. Anthology features include: Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color, If You Can Hear This: Poems in Protest of an American Inauguration, Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands and Puro Chicanx Writers of the 21st Century. His work can also be seen in The Louisville Review, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Huizache, The Acentos Review, Raspa Magazine, Glass Poetry Press, West Trade Review, Dovecote Magazine, Midway Journal, Somos en Escrito, Pine Hills Review, Bozalta and the Green Mountains Review tribute issue to former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. He lives and dreams in Sacramento, California.


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Organiser: SOAS Decolonising Working Group (DWG)

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